How Do You Know When to Trust?

I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Felicity O'Connor, Treble and Bass
©Felicity O'Connor, Treble and Bass. Oil on canvas, 152 x 142 centimeters.

Deep Thought Thursday

When looking to do business with someone – be it a venue, consultant, or collector – how do you know to trust?
What is your criteria for trust? What has to happen in order for you to trust someone? What kinds of questions do they have to respond to?
Does a trusting relationship involve a piece of paper?
Do you listen to what others say? Do you listen to your gut?
Are you inclined to trust until something bad happens?
How can someone prove themselves to be trustworthy?

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12 thoughts on “How Do You Know When to Trust?”

  1. That’s a thorny issue Alyson. I think there are several factors you need to take into account before trusting someone. I’ve had several emails asking about buying my work that have rung alarm bells and on further investigation turned out to be scams. Things like no specific details about my work and REALLY bad English. I hate that I judge the latter but, as so much spam is badly written, it always makes me think twice now. There’s a lot of that sort of thing in the artworld so you do need a degree of cynicism but you have to trust people at some point, and they have to trust you.
    You do need to check out opportunities, especially if they sound to good to be true. I always check’s list of pay to play galleries if I’m approached about some fantastic new opportunity. If it’s not there I’d still proceed with caution.

  2. I always take it as a good sign if the person I want to work with is asking a lot of questions. To me that shows that they are taking the issue seriously and working through it on their end.
    The other thing I look for are well thought out answers. If I ask questions and get glossy, buzzword-filled answers, I’m probably not going to trust that person.

  3. Two early things…1)”by their fruits ye shall know them…” I look at the works of art they are already showing…Before I even talk to somebody…2)When I shake their hand, & then mine smells like marijuana from the contact, it means they will be dropping things & forgetting the names of collectors…

  4. I use my gut mostly. I listen to what they aren’t saying as much as what they do. I check out everything I can online, finding out how much experience they have. How much do they zone in on me and my work, and not just in their general assumptions about my work, or how I look, or where I got my degree? I watch out for too much self-importance, arrogance and subtle put-downs. If they talk down to me, they have lost me. I watch for honesty & straight forwardness. Then I prefer to think about it before making decisions, I have a tendency to just rush into new things. I have to watch myself too.

  5. This reminds me of another quote: What you are, speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying”. It is always a good idea to follow up on info you may have from past business relationships, and there is nothing insulting about asking who an artist has had as past clients that they are using as references. If someone shows bad attitude about providing references or fails to call when they say they will, etc, I never pursue dealing with them, whether a seller or potential buyer. Sure as anything, they will prove to be as flaky as my earlier impression led me to believe, unfortunately.
    All this said, I still admit to considering someone trustworthy until they take that faith away from me by being unreliable or cryptic. Collectors who are genuinely interested in your art will be courteous, considerate and forthright, almost every time.
    If they let you know whose work they collect, you can even do a little research yourself to learn about how they are as clients, especially if you are letting them purchase on a payment plan.

  6. I am actually deeply in thought about trust before I read this post! I’m considering entering a business arrangement that up until this week had gone smoothly, but I had some doubts raised this week. I’m in the midst of separating out what are my self-doubts and insecurities from my faltering trust in the other party.
    I can’t say that I have much experienced insight into how or when to trust the people I do business with, but that it is obviously very important. I know I highly value my art and my time and my money and so forth, and that a reciprocated sentiment is expected. It’s a deal breaker for trust.
    Thank you early commenters on your thoughts. My intuition tells me that I need to draw up a thoughtful ledger on my decision on my current business prospect. And so, I remain in deep thought this Thursday!

  7. When I first entered the local art scene as a newbie, I wanted to trust everyone; I wanted to be friends with everyone.
    I ignored my gut feelings feeling I could be diplomatic enough to smoothen out any bad situations I encountered.
    Then I learned the hard way that there are just people out there in the art world, willing to take all you have to give until there’s nothing left to give.
    They’ll take and don’t even have the courtesy to say thanks.
    Now I take great care in selecting the artist groups and galleries I get involved with.
    I believe in reciprocity: if you give something and they give something back many times over a reasonable period, you know you have the start of something good… maybe.
    If they speak their mind while taking care to respect you as well, that’s another good sign.
    If they are hard workers that’s good, too.
    If they respect your time and your schedules that’s crucial, too.
    If they speak clearly about art and respectfully about others around them that’s important.
    I agree it’s a good idea to ask for references from an artist colleague and gallery especially when making money and your reputation are involved. And agree if they talk down to you or others that that’s a bad sign, too.
    Lastly, if you have a conversation with them and it’s all about them, then run in the other direction as fast as you can. This kind of relationship will go nowhere. A healthy relationship of any kind is based on mutual respect and exchange (in tangible and intangible forms).
    And, yes, it is possible to trust someone if you take care of being observant from the beginning and listening carefully to your gut.

  8. I take it one experience at a time. As a fairly positive person, who teaches people to be positive I tend to see the good in most people. Luckily I have not had many negative experiences. Email requests are pretty easy to decipher. Real requests agree to your terms. Do I have terms? Yes. Do I refine them over time? Yes. And the blog world is always teaching me new and exciting ideas.
    I certainly trust you Alyson 100%, and I’m glad I do.
    XO Barbara

  9. I love the quote. It is so disheartening when trust is broken in business relationships but especially in personal relationships.

  10. Pingback: Pick Up The Phone and Dial — Art Biz Blog

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